I have a habit of picking up books on a trip and then, on reaching home, promptly tucking them somewhere for future reading. I’ll forget about them, or where I placed them (I buy entirely too many reference books), and then one day, I’ll stumble over it. It’s like Christmas.
So it happened with a tiny book I found several days ago. It’s only about two inches by three inches, which is probably why I’ve neglected it for something like four years. But yes, my own personal Christmas came when I found it, and I delighted in it.
The book is entitled “Native American Wisdom.” Its contents were enough to make me run to the internet for more, Look up Native Indian Wisdom on the internet and you’ll find some truly fascinating sites along with very good music.
I usually like to blog about historical figures, particularly the unsung heroines of the west, but these sayings give such a unique understanding for the native Indians as well as universal truths that I just have to pass some of them on.
I might add that I love quotes. There’s one Indian quote that I’ve been using for years to conclude speeches on writing, so I’ll start with that one. I’ve always thought it described the writing life perfectly. “I go about pitying myself and all the while I am being carried on great winds across the sky.” The author is thought to be Chippawa.
But here are some more that struck a chord with me. They give a poignant picture of the Indian in the west.
“The American Indian is of the soil whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers; he belongs just as the buffalo belonged.” Luther Standing Bear, Sioux Chief
“We had no churches, no religious organizations, no Sabbath day, no holidays, and yet we worshipped. Sometimes the whole tribe would assemble and pray; sometimes a smaller number, perhaps only two or three. The songs had a few words, but were not formal. The singer would occasionally put in such words as he wished instead of the usual tone sound. Sometimes we prayed in silence. Sometimes each prayed aloud; sometimes an aged person prayed for all of us.” Geronimo
“In the beginning or all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals, for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beasts, and that from them, and from the stars, and the sun and the moon should man learn . . . all things tell of Tirawa.” A Pawnee Chief
“. . . everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission, This is the Indian theory of existence.” Mourning Dove
” . . . I am poor and naked, but I am chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.” Red Cloud, Sioux chief.
“Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom – an intense and absorbing love for nature; a respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood . . .” Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux Chief
” . . . The voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least I am a Pagan.” Dakota Sioux
‘I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures, and where everything drew a free breath . . . I know every stream and every wood between the Rio Grande and the Arkansas. I have hunted and lived over that country. I lived like my fathers before me, and like them I lived happily.” Ten Bears, Comanche Chief
And here are some short and pithy quotes:
“It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand.” Apache
“If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come.” Arapaho
“What is life? It’s the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Blackfoot
“Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins.” Cheyenne
“Our first teacher is our heart.” Cheyenne
“Remember that your children are not your own, but are lent to you by the creator.” Mohawk
“He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone.” Seneca
“Walk lightly in the spring; Mother Earth is pregnant.” Kiowa
Have you heard of a quote or piece of Indian wisdom that remained with you? Or do you have a favorite of those above?
I’ll send one of my westerns to one of you who comment on this post. The winner will be selected by random, and I’ll announce it on Thursday.